Friday, June 25, 2010

Staycation plans

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It’s prime time for vacations. Have you made your plans?
Recently, I spent lots of time online and on the phone trying to arrange to transport one grandson to accommodate the reunion schedules of five family groups in four states.
Many gray hairs and rebooking penalty fees later, I decided we should all leave it the pros and go back to our travel agents.
And I decided that, personally, this could be the year for staycations.
A survey of my soulmates revealed vacation plans that range from fishing and camping on Oregon’s Mount Hood to a cousin reunion in the Grand Canyon, urban adventures in New York, cool coastal getaways in Maine and the New Jersey shores and an underwater archaeological expedition to Turkey.
It all sounds like a lot of fun, if you have three or four weeks at a stretch to enjoy it all, or some access to Star Trek technology that would allow you to beam to your destination in the twinkling of a eye. (Although, if I remember my Trekkie lore, even advanced civilizations of the future occasionally managed to lose some vital luggage and a traveler or two in their high-tech transporters.)
As a travel writer, I’ve done a lot of the whirlwind, “If It’s Tuesday, it Must be Belgium” tours and in my vintage years, that mode seems more like work than a vacation.
In the same category, as far as I’m concerned, are so-called vacations where you volunteer to work on someone’s farm or donate your services in your normal field of employment. Volunteering is a noble thing to do, and I’m all for it. I just don’t think we should try to call it a vacation.
A win-win alternative could be to bid on a vacation getaway at an auction held by your favorite charity, benefiting a good cause and getting a real vacation at the same time.
I’m wary about home exchange programs, though I’ve heard glowing reports from friends who’ve swapped a few weeks or even months of life in their home towns for exotic locations in other parts of the globe.
But by the time you find a suitable swap, get your own home ready for visitors, and maintain and clean your vacation destination home (the way you hope your guests are treating your abode), the whole process sounds pretty stressful and exhausting.
I’d rather have someone else bring me fresh towels and change the sheets every day, sweep up the beach sand, turn down the beds, leave pillow mints and surprise me with fresh fruit and warm cookies, thank you very much.
On the other hand, if you stay home, or close by, you can add a couple of days you’d otherwise lose to travel time. There’s no need to plan and pack. Your vacation wardrobe is anything in your closet — or nothing at all. With all the money you’ll save, you can order takeout every day, or plan your own healthy spa diet with the occasional lobster treat.
And if you do your staycation right, you might even get relaxed enough to get out town for your next vacation.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What dad really wants

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — What does your dad want this Father’s Day?
I keep thinking of a wag’s twist on Sigmund Freud’s immoral query, “What does a woman want?”
Freud called it “The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul.”
A contemporary answer attributed to several sources is that women want the same thing as men, but in prettier colors.
And I’m pretty sure that what most good dads want is the same thing that most good moms want: happy, healthy kids.
That’s why the best thing you can give most dads today is some feedback on the ways they’ve made their kids happy.
According to the National Research Foundation’s 2010 Father’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, Father’s Day spending is expected to reach $9.8 billion and the average person will spend $94.32 on dad this year, up from $90.89 in 2009. More than 36 percent plan to spend a total of $1.3 billion on clothes. Others will spend $1.2 billion on electronics, $749 million on greeting cards, $578 million on tools or appliances, $550 million on home improvement or gardening tools and $400 million on automotive accessories. About a third of you will give up on the search for the perfect gift and shell out an estimated $1.2 billion for gift cards.
But you don’t have to. If you’re broke, and want something dad will really treasure, get creative.
Do something that will conjure memories of your happiest times together.
Make a card yourself. Write a poem or a song as an ode to Dad.
Make a little album with your favorite photos.
Do a top 10 list of your best times together.
Get together with your siblings and fill a blank diary with several pages of short memories: a vacation, a fishing trip, something he taught you, something you built together, a favorite holiday, a meal you made together …
And by the way, dads usually don’t stand on ceremony, when it come to the mushy, wonderful stuff. If you don’t quite finish your project or you aren’t quite satisfied with it, give it to him anyway, or let him know it’s coming.
If you can’t be together today, give him a call (no texting or e-mails today — dad needs to hear your voice) and tell him you love him.
It will make most dads happy to spend some time with their kids. If that’s not possible, do your best to make plans for a reunion soon.
The NRF survey found 39.9 percent of those celebrating dad this year will treat him to a special outing such as dinner or brunch, spending a collective $1.9 billion.
But again, some of the most dad-pleasing gatherings can be free, or almost. Plan a camping weekend. Put together a picnic or barbecue. Share a sandwich and a hike or a drive.
If you’re looking for an unusual treat for dad, consider a trip to Fort Selden Father’s Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Enjoy a campfire breakfast with biscuits and eggs cooked on a stick. Fort Selden State Monument is located in Radium Springs. Take Interstate 25 to exit 19, 13 miles north of Las Cruces. Admission is free for all dads, and for all New Mexico residents on Sunday. For information, call (575) 526-8911.
Happy Father’s Day!

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lamentations for the Gulf

A lament for the Gulf

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — I watched the satellite photos of the Gulf, and the oddly reddish patterns of gushing oil, and thought of lines from “The Second Coming,” the W.B. Yeats’ poem: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed …”
And I thought of the changes I have seen in my lifetime, growing up in a world addicted to oil.
I was a small child, swimming in a sparkling, spring-fed lake, near my grandparents’ waterfront cabin in Northern Michigan.
The sky and the water were a bright June blue. I floated contentedly for a while, then began a slow swim to shore — and swallowed a mouthful of gasoline.
A little marina had just opened nearby and boaters were careless with gas fill-ups for their outboard motors.
On a hot, humid June day, about 16 years ago, I was feeling happy about returning to New Mexico, and mostly glad to be leaving just about everything but a few loved ones and a big ocean in Southern Florida.
I decided to take a nostalgic last walk on one of my favorite beaches on the Atlantic coast.
I packed up some gear: water, beach towel, sunscreen. And baby oil and a soft, old cloth to remove the “beach tar” that had been part of every walk on every beach during my last seven years in Florida.
That was nearly two decades before the great 2010 oil disaster, and the beach tar was already a part of everyday life.
This week, I found myself reminiscing about the late, great, decades of the 20th century, when one could still walk an ocean beach and come home with bare feet that were shining clean and lightly pumiced … a natural pedicure, before we sullied Mother Nature’s beauty salon.
I’ve lived most of my life near large bodies of water. I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, and spent summers swimming, canoeing, sailing and kayaking on rivers and lakes both great and small. By the time my son was old enough to join me, fishing licenses carried warnings about industrial pollution.
My next home, in the Pacific Northwest, seemed to be a refreshing change from the downhill spiral into pollution. Progressive Oregon worked hard to clean up the mighty Willamette that ran through the heart of Portland, the state’s largest urban area, and established auto emission regulations, bottle return bills and other helpful measures.
But family members send reports that even that once-pristine area has suffered from chemical spills, medical waste and other ravages.
When I miss large bodies of water in my desert home, I’ve taken comfort in mountain vistas of large expanses of desert, not unlike the oceans and Great Lakes, I’ve thought, unpolluted by petroleum.
But there is no real refuge. On isolated mountain tops and remote deserts, I’ve been tortured by the noise and lungs full of exhaust, generated by ATVers.
I’ve mourned with friends over sites where thoughtless souls have dumped their oil on the banks of the already overburdened Rio Grande, killing fragile plants, fish and animals.
I just heard from my eloquent friend John Flannery of Truth or Consequences, an internationally renowned photographer whose work for National Geographic includes some of the most beautiful earth aerial photos I’ve ever seen.
“From a few of the aerials I’ve chanced on watching TV, the vastness of that unprepared for, ongoing disaster has created The American Dead Sea. BP is henceforth in my feeble mind a corporate serial murderer. Even after they ‘clean up every drop,’ they will have ruined countless lives, some unborn, some never to be born, and slammed open a Pandora’s box of a completely different sort. An aquatic and shoreline Buchenwald,” John laments.
Now, I’m holding vigil with my sister Sally, a retired Florida journalist who has worked with bird and marine mammal wildlife rescue organizations. We brace for revelations of new crimson tides and ponder what to do.
She recently visited Alaska’s Prince William Sound and found the area still has not fully recovered, more than two decades after the Exxon Valdez spill. We wonder how, or if, today’s greater assaults can be weathered in the more fragile Gulf Coast estuaries and the Florida Everglades.
And I think of poets and angels and the closing chapter in the New Testament, all warning of blood red tides, when the seas and their creatures died.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More uplifting adventures

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — You have some intriguing tales to tell about downtown elevators, that range from possible hauntings to a Don Knotts 1950s movie line that had Las Cruces audiences rolling in the aisles.
In a recent Las Cruces Style column, I wrote about my uplifting travels in Downtown Mall elevators with grandson Alexander the Great in his formative childhood years, and many of you wrote, called and e-mailed to share your own elevator adventures.
“I read with interest your piece about elevators and our city's ‘rise.’ I suppose the new ones are indicative of progress of our town. One that your grandson most likely missed out on is the elevator in the Rio Grande Theatre. It wasn't part of the original building, but it has existed since the renovation completed five years ago,” said Doña Ana Arts Council president Kathleen Squires.
“If Alexander the Great had the opportunity to ride up in the RGT elevator, he surely would have been terribly bored … and chosen the stairs down. A one-story elevator, it is sweet, but very slow,” Squires said.
In fact, Heather Pollard, DAAC founder and past director, as well as a guiding force in downtown revitalization and the restoration of the Rio Grande Theatre, nominated what’s alleged to be the nation’s oldest adobe theater for another honor: “slowest elevator in the state.”
We should note that others nominated the Las Cruces Museum of Art and Branigan Library elevators for “slowest” accolades.
But Pollard has some powerful evidence, including a slow rider endurance feat by DAAC executive director Larry Broxton.
“The elevator has also gotten stuck, most notably locking in Larry for some 20 minutes,” Pollard said.
“The elevator is also said to be inhabited by a ghost — sometimes it goes up and down when no human person pushes the button,” reports Pollard, who is something of an expert on the history of elevators in the City of Crosses. “I remember when the Corbett Center and the Papen building were IT.”
The lack of elevators here inspired some very amused reactions from Las Cruces movie audiences in the 1950s.
Musician and songwriter Bob Burns of Las Cruces called to share a Las Cruces elevator story related to the 1958 movie “No Time for Sergeants,” starring Andy Griffith as U.S. Air Force draftee Pvt. Will Stockdale and his later-to-be-famed TV Mayberry deputy Don Knotts, who portrayed Cpl. John C. “Dexterity” Brown in the film.
“It shows them being inducted (into the Air Force) and they’re standing there in their skivvies, and they’re going around giving their names and telling what they did in civilian life. When it came to Don Knotts’ (character), he gives his name and says ‘I was an elevator operator in Las Cruces, New Mexico.’ Of course, nobody around the country knew to laugh, because at that time, there were no elevators in Las Cruces,” Burns said.
I also heard from a longtime Las Crucen who said he remembered helping to build some kind of a “lift” or elevator device while he was in college, at the old Newman’s Hardware Store on the Downtown Mall. I’ve talked to several natives, but have been unable to pinpoint exactly where it was: The consensus is that was in the same block where the Music Box is today, on the other side of the street.
Maybe we should all collaborate on an uplifting book, “A History of Las Cruces Downtown Mall Elevators.”
Actually, I hope it will remain a short history. I can’t help sympathizing with a Sound Off! caller who feels, “We should not be proud of the fact that we are starting to need elevators. One of the charming and wonderful things about Las Cruces was always how nice and low to the ground everything was. How we just blended in and nestled in our little Mesilla Valley. That is one of the things that made it unique. Elevators — who needs them? Who needs buildings that tall? We don’t.”
During daily commutes, when my views of the Organs are obscured, however briefly, by our new governmental buildings, I realize I’d gladly trade every elevator in town to preserve our low, slow way of life a little longer.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450